Copycat (1995, Jon Amiel)

It’s easy to pick out the “best” thing in Copycat because it’s almost entirely atrocious. Christopher Young’s highly derivative score is lovely—it’s a mix between John Williams and then Aliens whenever Sigourney Weaver is in thriller danger. Thanks to the score, Copycat makes some interesting swings, like emotive, romantic music during the most inappropriate sequences. Again, outside aping Ripley moments, it never fits the content, but it is definitely lovely.

Otherwise, the high point is J.E. Freeman’s performance as the grizzled police captain. He’s fine. They cut away from him too soon because he’s clearly knawing on the set. I really wanted to see him munch on his coffee mug, which always seems inevitable.

Besides those two elements, it’s just a matter of what’s not godawful and what’s just bad.

What’s impressive about Freeman is he’s the only acceptable performance. Everyone else is either incompetent or appalling. A lot of it is Amiel’s direction. He’s inept at composing the Panavision shots—it’s a special kind of bad to waste San Francisco like Amiel wastes it (the lighting is fine, thanks to László Kovács’s photography but wow, what a waste of Kovács)—but he’s even worse at directing actors. Whether Weaver, who’s got a risibly written part, soulful surfer tech bro cop Dermot Mulroney, or incel serial killer William McNamara, Amiel does an incapable job with all of them. Oh, I forgot Will Patton. Poor Will Patton.

Copycat is supposed to be about Weaver teaming up with San Francisco homicide inspector Holly Hunter, but second-billed Hunter deserves an “and” credit. She takes a back seat to Mulroney, McNamara, and even Patton as her erstwhile love interest. Patton’s a sexist, racist fellow detective—Hunter and Mulroney are partners—and until it turns out he’s dangerously unfit, he just ruins scenes. Not because he’s the worst actor in them; instead, he’s a purposeless boil on the film. He’s there, so they don’t have to do a whole trope, just a three-quarters trope.

Of the main cast, Hunter’s the least bad. She’s never good because it’s a terrible movie, but you’re never slack-jawed at the badness of her performance. Like Weaver. So much bad acting from Weaver.

The script, courtesy Ann Biderman and David Madsen, is worse than Amiel’s direction. Likewise, Jim Clark and Alan Heim’s editing is lousy.

Copycat’s so abominable I don’t even want to talk about Harry Connick Jr.’s cameo as a hillbilly serial killer, which starts worse than it finishes, but only because his bad performance is less bad than the many other bad performances. It’s a derivative, insipid motion picture, so obviously rotten the cast don’t even earn sympathy for their embarrassing participation.

Pretty music, though. Very pretty music.

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